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HomeworldHopes rise for Israel-Hamas truce deal as Gaza toll hits 20,000

Hopes rise for Israel-Hamas truce deal as Gaza toll hits 20,000

PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES — Hopes rose Wednesday (Dec 20) that Israel and Hamas may be inching toward another truce and hostage-release deal in the Gaza war, following talks in Europe and a visit to Egypt by the head of the Palestinian militant group.

“I wish for a complete ceasefire, and to put an end to the series of death and suffering. It’s been more than 75 days,” said Mr Kassem Shurrab, 25.

Mr Bassil Khoder, 63, said a ceasefire would allow displaced Palestinians like him to return home but it would be good for Israelis too.

“The Jews are also our neighbours,” he said. “We won’t give up on them.”

‘ENOUGH’

An AFPTV live camera on Wednesday filmed two bombs hitting Rafah, in southern Gaza where many of the territory’s estimated 1.9 million displaced have fled.

The Hamas health ministry said Israeli strikes killed at least 12 Palestinians when houses and a mosque in Rafah “were targeted”. It said later at least 30 more people were killed in an Israeli strike that hit two houses east of Khan Yunis.

Crowds swarmed the rubble, digging with shovels and a backhoe to try to free the victims. One blackened body lay under a blue blanket on the blood-soaked ground.

The army reported close-quarter combat and more than 300 strikes over the past day, while the death toll among its own forces rose to 134 inside Gaza.

It said troops had uncovered a tunnel network used by Hamas leaders including Mr Yahya Sinwar, the Islamist movement’s Gaza chief. The military released footage it said showed the “large network” around Gaza City’s Palestine Square linking hideouts and residences.

The UN Security Council again delayed a vote on a resolution calling for a pause to the war after members wrangled over wording. The vote is now scheduled for Thursday morning.

The United States vetoed a previous ceasefire resolution.

Israel, which declared a total siege on Gaza at the start of the war, has since allowed aid trucks through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt and, as of this week, its own Kerem Shalom crossing.

The World Food Progamme said Wednesday it had delivered food through Kerem Shalom in a first direct aid convoy from Jordan and warned of the “risk of starvation”.

Fuel, water and medical supplies are also scarce, diseases are spreading, and communications have been repeatedly cut.

An Israeli military agency, COGAT, said it had started laying a pipeline from Egypt to deliver drinking water from a mobile desalination plant in a project led by the United Arab Emirates.

Visiting nearby Cyprus, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen expressed support for plans to send humanitarian aid to Gaza from the Mediterranean island.

“We aim to create a fast track for humanitarian aid to Gaza through this corridor,” he said.

The war has sparked fears of regional escalation, with exchanges of fire over the Lebanon border, and missiles from Iran-backed Yemeni rebels disrupting Red Sea shipping. AFP

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